I’m not a travel expert. But I must admit it; Traveling around Europe is extremely expensive. It appears to be impossible for most of us. Airfares and transportation are expensive, also hotels and foods. But it’s doable. All you need is a lot of planning, a little discipline, and an easy-going low-maintenance type of attitude. If you prefer staying in a five-stars hotel, flying in business class and no-hassle trip then maybe you can stop reading now because this post is meant for people who are a budget traveler like me.
Here are some tips to make that dream trip of yours happen:
Set a Visa Appointment. Get your Schengen visa from the country of your port of entry and try to schedule early. For me, that was Amsterdam since the round-trip airfare to Amsterdam was cheaper compared to other big cities in Europe. But don’t book your flight ticket just yet. You just have to show a ticket reservation for the intended departure date. To do this, I get a help from Blue Horizons Travel & Tour with just paying 500 pesos. You have to state your intention clearly that you need it for your visa application. I also purchased my travel insurance for 2500 pesos with Blue Horizons. With my six-countries trip, I needed to work on my detailed itinerary and the embassy will also check if you have enough funds in your bank account to support you throughout the trip. I can give you a sample of my itinerary that I presented to the embassy, just leave a comment below.
Make sure all your documents are complete and save it in your phone and online. Your passport copy, all your tickets, doctor’s prescription (if you have any), travel insurance, id photo, metro map and brings the hard copy as well.
Book your transportation in advance. Once your visa is approved, start booking your flight, train or bus ticket. The key to travel around Europe cheaply is planning. Transportation is much cheaper if you book it at least 6 months earlier. There are budget airlines like Vueling, Ryanair and Transavia that offers mind-blowing low-fair, which cost almost the same price with trains and buses. I flew from Paris to Pisa for e30 with Transavia. Always compare the price first before buying. Flixbus is the best bus service out there that caters to the international long distance around Europe with a very affordable price, and it has Wi-fi too. Remember to choose the departure place wisely since Flixbus doesn’t always pick up the passenger from the bus terminal. Sometimes it just parks along the street which makes it difficult to find. Although bus and trains offer beautiful scenery throughout the trip, the disadvantage of it is the journey can be long. I recommend alternating your journey between these 3 travel option: train, bus and budget airlines to save your time and money.
Be Resourceful. This means download every single application on your phone that’s going to make your life easier. I bought my ticket to Amsterdam from Skyscanner. GoEuro is one of the applications I used the most when booking the transportation within Europe. I only have a few credit limit on my credit card so every hostel or dormitory that I booked in Booking.com always have “pay later” policy. I didn’t buy any European sim-card and only rely on the public WiFi so whenever I needed to find direction, I opened MAPS.ME. It’s an offline map you can use without internet connection. Just download all the countries you want to visit and activate your GPS tracker. Although European generally speak good English, I downloaded all the language of the countries I’m visiting on my Google Translate. I saved some of the important phrases like “sorry” “where’s the toilet?” “thank you” . I also have XE Currency ready whenever I’m about to exchange money.
Pack Instant Noodles or buy food from the local grocery store. This will help you to cut cost on food. Restaurants can be very pricey in the big cities in Europe like Paris and Zurich. You need to limit yourself eating out to once a day. My travel buddy, Rita packed 15 instant noodles and boy, I might have starved myself to sleep without them. It saved us during the cold night in Rotterdam when we can’t find anything to eat because all shops closed at 6pm, also on those days in Switzerland where most of the meal cost e22 per plate. If you stay in AirBnB then it’s a good choice to cook yourself but since we only stayed in hostel and dormitory where it only provides an electric kettle in the room, cup noodles it is!
Set your Daily Budget . This will help you to keep track on your expenses throughout the trip. My daily budget was e40 or less. I spent e10 per meal. When I spend less, I could save some money for shopping and souvenirs.
Pack Light. Budget airlines have a strict height and weight restrictions for carry-on bags and checked baggage. You might also want to avoid dragging 30 kg baggage on pebble stones. The last thing you want to happen during your trip is a damage luggage and back-pain.
Do your Laundry. Since you’re going to pack light, it’s necessary for you to wash your clothes. Dormitory and AirBnB usually provide guests with washing machine. Hotel charges higher to do your laundry. There’s also a coin-operated laundry that cost around e4-7.
Walk and avoid cabs. You may find yourself lost in a beautiful city. We always purchase an unlimited metro card but there are times like in Barcelona where they only have a 3-day pass and it’s quite costly so we only bought a 10-times-pass and we took on the city by foot.
Don’t travel in the summer. This is one thing that i kind of regret because I could spend so much less if i travel during off season. In summer, everything is expensive, hostel and tours are booked up, the cities are uncomfortably crowded and all of the locals are on holidays.
Avoid withdrawing money from ATM as you are more likely to get a very poor exchange rate from your bank and there’s a fee for every transaction too. Don’t exchange money at the airport, you will get ripped off with their rate. Bring the money you need for the trip in cash and hide it separately in your bag or wherever you feel safe. Have an open credit card, NOT for shopping but for the emergency situation like you missed your flight for example.
Get it FREE where you can. Like free entry museum on the first Sunday of the month in Paris, refilling your water bottle from the fountains in Rome, City maps in the travel office, take-out food from the restaurant to avoid additional charges in Barcelona, or watch a free concert in the park of Amsterdam.
List down places you want to go but be open and flexible. Give an open time in between those places for any surprises like a long line or early closing time. When you make an itinerary, you have to consider the travel time, available transportation and the cost. Europe is a huge continent so you have to know by heart where you want to go and work your way there. I was hoping to see the lavender field in Southern-France but because we just have 2 days in France, so we make the most of our time in Paris.
Now, after reading all this, you might roll your eyes now and say “this is too much” but hey, the best things in life is never easy. Make traveling to Europe something like a one-year plan. Create a travel fund, cook yourself, avoid eating out too much, sacrifice your happy hour habit. It took me 3 years to save enough funds to go and I only have a little money left after the trip but it was worth it.
Find a travel buddy, whether it’s your boyfriend, sister, cousin or friend. I was lucky to have my best friend Rita, who just as easy-going and low-maintenance like me to join the trip. We made our itineraries together, we consult each other before booking anything, we slept in the airport together, we watched each other’s back (literally) so no one get pick-pocketed, we reminded each other whenever one of us spend too much on shopping.. trust me, always choose your travel buddy wisely especially if you are about to spend a month in a foreign land. You will need a reliable support system.
Lastly, have courage. Don’t worry about money, just make it work. This will be a memory you treasured for a lifetime. You may come back again with your spouse or family one day but it will never gonna be the same feeling as doing it alone. You have a chance to turn that dreams into plans, do it now.
Do you have any other tips to travel in Europe? Feel free to comment below 🙂
Live to the fullest,